Parents of detained Belarusian dissident plead for EU, US help

The parents of Roman Protasevich have appealed to the EU and the US to help win the release of their son from a Belarusian prison after he was detained by the Minsk regime after the forced landing of his Ryanair flight in Belarus.

His parents, Natalia and Dmitry Protasevich, made their appeal at a press briefing in Warsaw on Thursday.

Belarus used the pretext of a bogus bomb threat to force the Ryanair flight carrying Protasevich from Athens to Vilnius to land in Minsk on Sunday. Once on the ground, Belarusian security forces arrested Protasevich, a leading dissident, and his girlfriend. Protasevich had been on a Belarusian wanted list.

"I want to ask you as Roman's mother, I want you to hear my scream, the scream of my soul, to understand that it's really hard for us right now and we're really struggling with this absurd situation," Natalia Protasevich said.

"My son was just one of those young people (opposing Alexander Lukashenko's regime - PAP) and through his Nexta channel he was simply telling the world about what was happening in Belarus... and he did it in a peaceful way," she continued.

According to the mother, her son was strangled and beaten up after his arrest, but was made-up to look fine before being forced to speak in a video staged by Minsk.

The West regards the forced landing as a case of state terrorism, and a number of countries, including Poland, have banned flights to and from Belarus, and the EU has imposed additional sanctions on Minsk.